Posts Tagged With: Willie Nelson

The Wheel rolls on: No. 75 on the all-time hit parade

Congratulations are on order for “Comin’ Right at Ya” star/subject/co-writer Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel, who just placed on a mightily impressive list — Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Country Artists of All Time.” The Wheel comes in at a solid No. 75, right behind Lee Ann Womack and just ahead of Marty Stuart. Further up, a number of other people who figure prominently in the “Comin’ Right at Ya Story” are in the top-10, including Waylon, Willie, Dolly and, of course, Merle (at No. 1, no less). Yes, Ray’s on a first-name basis with all of ’em.

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Austin’s Broken Spoke rolls on

AATWSpokeFor better or worse, Asleep at the Wheel’s longtime hometown of Austin, Texas, has changed an awful lot over the last 40 years. It’s depressing to tally up all the funky enclaves that have been paved over in the name of runaway growth, and it sure isn’t the same town it was during the Armadillo era I wrote about in my University of Texas Master’s Thesis. But Austin still has plenty to recommend it. I’m sure my “Comin’ Right at Ya” co-writer/subject/star Ray Benson will never leave, and I always love going back to visit. I’m already counting the days until next month’s South By Southwest.

The Broken SpokeOne lingering repository of how The Old Austin ™ used to be is The Broken Spoke, an old-style honky tonk that used to be surrounded by empty fields south of downtown. Urban sprawl swallowed up that stretch of South Lamar long ago, but The Spoke is still standing. Going there feels not unlike visiting a game preserve, surrounded as it is by high-rise condos and such.

Inside, however, the place feels pretty much the same as it did when I started going to shows there during my circa-1980s college days, with ceilings low enough to make me glad I’m nowhere near as tall as Ray. And above right is a picture from a show I really wish I’d been able to make it to, Willie Nelson sitting in with the Wheel Thursday night to benefit Turk Pipkin’s Nobelity Project.

Great cause, and I can’t imagine the show was anything but great, too — and man, I can practically taste the Lone Star beer and chicken-fried steak. As long as The Spoke survives, a piece of Old Austin will live on. I find that comforting, y’all.

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Fifteen minutes at No. 15 on the best-of-2015 list

NDTRRlogoWith Christmas approaching and holiday buying season in full effecthint, hint — yearend best-of lists are beginning to roll in. And I’m happy to note that “Comin’ Right at Ya” has made it onto a really nice countdown alongside some very choice company in No Depression’s book column, “The Reading Room’s Best Books of 2015” as compiled by Henry Carrigan (who was kind enough to include me in another column last month about bookish influences).

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“Comin’ Right at Ya” appears at No. 15 on No Depression’s top-40, right between legendary Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty and “Dean of American Rock Critics” Robert Christgau. Heck yeah, I’ll take that — especially since we quoted a few of Christgau’s “Consumer Guide” reviews of various Asleep at the Wheel albums in the book.

Being at No. 15 also puts “Comin’ Right at Ya” ahead of Chrissie Hynde’s memoir “Reckless” at No. 18; my American Music Series colleague Chris Morris’ “Los Lobos: Dream in Blue” at No. 20; Texas country icon Willie Nelson’s “It’s a Long Story: My Life” at No. 35; and (how about that) my idol Greil Marcus’ “Real Life Rock: The Complete Top Ten Columns” at No. 39.

As for the books at the top end of No Depression’s list, the No. 1 placement of Peter Guralnick’s exhaustive and much-acclaimed “Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll” is no surprise. The same goes for Patti Smith’s “M Train” at No. 3 and Kristin Hersh’s gorgeously painful American Music Series title “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt,” plus memoirs by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon at No. 9 and Elvis Costello at No. 10.

I’d also like to note that it’s extremely cool to see my buddy Steve Knopper’s “MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson” come in two notches ahead of Ray Benson and me, at No. 13 — even though I don’t want him to be getting any ideas about that.

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Comin’ right at Luke Bryan

LukeBryanThis should be interesting, a moderate media imbroglio just in time for this week’s publication day of “Comin’ Right at Ya.” I can tell you from experience that subject/star/co-writer Ray Benson is a man who speaks his mind. And in a recent interview with the Lowell Sun in Massachusetts to preview an Asleep at the Wheel show up that way, Ray was quoted saying some not-so-glowing things about modern mainstream country music in general, and bro-hunk Luke Bryan in particular:

You can relate to picking up girls, drinking beer and hot pants. The thematic stuff is what bothers me. I don’t like Luke Bryan and those guys, because there’s no originality. Every song follows pretty much the same chord progression. That’s not a bad thing, in and of itself. Hank Williams used the same four chords, but there’s no melodic integrity and the words are just silly.

You listen to Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Patsy Cline or Willie Nelson. None sound like the other. It’s individuality at its best. Patsy Cline was a pop singer, but with country sensibilities.

Let me qualify this by saying there’s great country music made today by lots of people, it’s just not getting on mainstream radio.

That quote has since been been picked up elsewhere, so…I guess we’ll see if Bryan has anything to say in return — and if that moves the needle at all once the book comes out.

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God Save The Queen

“Losering” has been out in the world for a couple of years, long enough that checking its Amazon sales ranking ceased being a daily ritual some time ago. But I’ll still look it up on occasion, mostly to see if anybody else has reviewed it (I’m still waiting for a review in Spain, Brazil and France, among other places, y’all). And it will still jump on up the sales list every now and then, too. The other day, in fact, it even hit No. 1 for “Biographies of Country Musicians” on Amazon.UK — nestled, as you can see below, ahead of books about Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson.

Of course, this was short-lived. “Losering” slid on down very quickly and yielded the top spot to Johnny Cash, which seems only right. Still, I think I like this one even better than the book’s other summit appearances, in Canada.

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O Canada, we stand on guard for thee — at No. 1!

CanadaCountry1Since “Losering” came out last fall, I’ve had great fun keeping up with it on Amazon.com here and elsewhere. That’s not to say it’s been a best-seller, of course. While the book has sold pretty well, its best U.S. Amazon showing to date is a modest No. 3,162 — enough to keep the American Music Series in business, even if it’s not going to contribute significantly to my retirement.

But probably just to keep fools like me paying attention, Amazon also runs “specialty” charts breaking it down into various categories such as music biograpies, rock, country and so on. That 3,162 was good enough to get “Losering” up to No. 4 in Amazon’s “Country” category, where it briefly lodged as high as No. 2 a few months ago (denied the top spot by Willie Nelson’s “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” dagnabbit).

While “Losering”‘s Amazon ranking has since descended a good bit in America, it seems to be doing well on Amazon Canada — where I am happy to report that it hit the top of, if not the poppermost, the “Country” and  “Bluegrass” rankings. Yee haw!

Friday afternoon, “Losering” climbed to the summit of both. Not sure what “Motown Anthology” is doing on either chart, but what the hell. Now it’s true that my book was only at No. 5,646 overall, so this is nothing to get too excited about. Still, a pretty cool thing to see. Cheap thrills are still thrills in my book.

Come summer, I figure I’m all set to start playing state fairs and bluegrass festivals up there…

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More nice company: Uprooted Music Revue

Here’s another nice little Christmas present, placement on the year-end list of the 15 top books of 2012 as determined by Uprooted Music Revue (which also ran a nice interview back in November). “Losering” appears alongside books by and/or about Willie Nelson, David Byrne, the Louvin Brothers, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Alan Lomax, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Gram Parsons, Woody Guthrie, Bettye LaVette, Doc Watson, Pete Seeger and Jonah Lehrer. Journeyman that I am, I’m darned glad to be keeping company like that. Check it out.

ADDENDUM: Chris Mateer was also kind enough to make me one of his top 25 interviews for the year.

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Top-10!! Sort of…

So I have no idea how amazon.com reckoned this, and I expect it was either a mistake or some bizarre statistical aberration. But however it happened, on Monday evening “Losering” came to rest at a pretty lofty perch on one of amazon’s specialty charts — at No. 7 in country music books, right between Willie Nelson and (I love this) a book called “Bluegrass Mandolin for the Complete Ignoramus!”

Now it’s hard to get too excited about this, given that the book’s overall amazon ranking at this moment was…um, No. 31,029. Still…don’t it look pretty sitting there on a sales chart next to a single-digit number?

ADDENDUM: A day later, it’s somehow at No. 5, right behind Johnny Cash. Squeeee!

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